The East Texas heat and humidity didn’t deter the five D-Day invasion veterans as they were honored in a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the allied assault on Friday.
About 75 people attended the ceremony, held at the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home about 20 minutes north of Tyler, which remembered the many sacrifices made by those members of the greatest generation. During the event, the D-Day veterans were presented with sand from Normandy Beach, letters, plaques and flowers.
One of the honorees, Austeen “Chuck” Bice, who served with the U.S. Army’s 300th Combat Engineers, said he enjoyed the ceremony and was glad to be there.
“It makes me feel good, but it makes me feel old,” he said with a laugh. “You’re always a little excited when people stop to reflect on what’s happened.”
Fellow honoree and combat engineer Homer Garrett maintained they weren’t heroes.
As a Vietnam veteran called him a hero, Garrett said, “I’m anything but a hero; the heroes we left over there.”
Despite Garrett’s somber proclamation, those in attendance thoroughly disagreed.
“These men are my heroes,” Sgt. First Class William Todd, of the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Military Police Battalion out of Tyler, said. “I grew up reading about them, and the battles they fought. I’m honored to be in their presence. My generation and the generation following me, we serve and fight to keep freedom, but the greatest generation fought for freedom.”
Another Texas Army National Guard soldier, Master Sgt. Miguel Fabbiani, of Henderson, echoed Todd’s sentiment.
“They’re a national treasure,” the Green Beret said. “They are called the greatest generation for a reason. These guys they stepped out knowing exactly what they were getting into. They knew that some of them would not be coming back, and without hesitation, defended us.”
When asked what sets the greatest generation apart from any other generation, Fabbiani summed it up in one word — selflessness.
“Anyone who serves in the military is selfless — you have to be to do it — but these gentlemen are above and beyond,” he said. “They fought for the people on their left and right and those behind. They knew that people were going to lose their lives, and that it very well could have been one of them, but they did it anyway.”
However, Bice said he credits his parent’s generation in how the greatest generation turned out.
“I thank God for my daddy and mother’s generation,” Bice said. “They were the generation that produced the greatest generation. They had been through World War I and the Great Depression. They were God-fearing people, and that’s the way we were brought up. That’s what made us — hard work.”
Regardless of who or what sets them apart, Todd said they deserve to be remembered and honored.
“They freed the world. I fought and served my country, and these gentlemen did, too, but they freed the world,” he said. “That generation freed the world from tyranny and allowed us to continue to be Americans and enjoy the freedoms that we have.”
The other honorees were Claude Grisham, Richard Carter and Robert Moore.